The Wise and Their Reward
James Smith, 1860
True wisdom is an invaluable blessing, and therefore it is always highly commended in the word of God. It is either natural or spiritual gift of God, or a grace of the Holy Spirit. Solomon chose it, and hence the greatness to which he arose. Fools despise it, and hence the degradation into which they sink. All saints more or less possess it, and therefore there are many promises made to it. We will look at one, "Those who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3.
THE CHARACTERS, "Those who are wise." Spiritual wisdom looks after essentials first — and then circumstantials. It is ever humble — and yet conscious of its own dignity and excellency in Christ. The wise seek to secure the most important things first . . .
life, everlasting life;
safety, the safety of the soul;
happiness, the present and everlasting happiness of the entire person;
and honor, the honor that comes from God only.
The wise are taught to know themselves, as poor, lost, miserable sinners.
They know the Lord Jesus, as a present and precious Savior.
They know their own unrighteousness — and the righteousness wrought out by the Lord Jesus Christ for them.
To be wise, in brief, is . . .
to know God as he has revealed himself in his word;
to serve God, as requiring obedience in the gospel;
to aim to be like God, as the model of all excellence.
Wisdom perceives God's end, and sympathizes with it, therefore the marginal reading is "They that be teachers," which all wise people should be, either publicly or privately — all should preach Christ who can; all should teach Scripture truth who know it; every Christian should be actively engaged in spreading God's word, and extending Christ's kingdom.
"Those who turn many to righteousness." We should teach that we may turn souls from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Turn them to know righteousness, as required in the law, and provided in the gospel. Turn them to become righteous both in heart and life. Turn them to practice righteousness both toward God and man. Turn them to God, by earnest prayer and diligent painstaking.
THE PROMISE. "They shall shine." Like John the baptist, who "was a burning and shining light." Like the path of the just, which shines more and more unto the perfect day. They may be under a cloud for a time, as were many of our forefathers — who shine now, and will shine forever.
"They shall shine as the brightness of the firmament." Not as the transient lightning, or the cold — but beautiful northern lights — but with all the brightness and glory of an unclouded eastern sky. They shall shine in body, like the body of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. They shall shine in body and in soul, as Jesus predicted. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father!" "They shall shine as the stars forever and ever!" Theirs will be no transient glory, like a flashing meteor; but permanent, like the fixed stars. They will be distinct from each other — differing from each other, as "one star differs from another star in glory." All shining with borrowed light — with light borrowed from the sun of righteousness. Shining with ever increasing luster
and glory. All bright, all beautiful, all glorious — yet each having his "own reward, according to his own labor."
They shine , as stars in the hemisphere of the church below — and they will shine as stars in the firmament of the church above! What a glorious reward, for such poor and imperfect labors!
The wise all feel their need of the help of the Holy Spirit; they seek it, obtain it, and act under its influence.
The wise yield themselves to God, to be his instruments, doing his work; and to be his living sacrifices, acceptable to him by Jesus Christ.
What a contrast will there is between the present and the future with many! Some who seem to shine now, will have to exclaim, "Our lamps are gone out!" For some wandering stars, is reserved the blackness of darkness forever! Judas shone once — but the light that was in him became darkness, and how great is that darkness. Many who have shone in pulpits and on platforms, in schools and colleges, will be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
On the contrary, some who in villages and obscure places, have labored for Christ and for souls, without patronage, remuneration, or scarcely any encouragement but their Savior's smile — will shine forth as the brightness of the firmament! Many men of small talent, but deep spirituality; men who were overlooked and neglected by their fellow Christians, who silently and perseveringly labored on, unknowing and unknown — shall shine forth as the stars forever and ever! On earth they never drank of the intoxicating cup of human applause, they were never cheered in public meetings, or praised in periodicals, or applauded by the multitude. But out of love to Christ and immortal souls, they spoke of Jesus, warned sinners of their danger, and invited them to come to Christ; and in their own unostentatious, unobtrusive way, they won many souls for Christ, and turned many to righteousness and God. They were thought little of by men — but they were highly esteemed in the sight of God. They were scarcely considered dim lamps when they were here on earth — but they shine as stars in Heaven.
O how many, who flashed, and startled, and dazzled their fellow men on earth; who sought and obtained the applause of the multitude, and the commendation of the great in time — will be missing in God's firmament of glory, who will not have the splendor of the smallest star!
My fellow believer, is your lot obscure? Are your talents small? Do you labor to spread abroad the savor of the knowledge of Christ amidst much discouragement, often disheartened and cast down? Cheer up, press on, and persevere with your work. You are perhaps, at the very moment when you are most discouraged, turning many to righteousness. You see not now the good you do, or the success with which God crowns your labors — but you will see by and by. Be faithful. Be fervent. Work for God, and go on with your work, for you cannot labor for God in vain.
Think of Paul's words, "Every man shall receive his own reward. according to his own labor." Not according to his success, or his own estimate of the value and worth of his services — but "according to his own labor." Labor on then in faith, in patience, with prayer and perseverance; and concealed as you may be now — you "shall shine forth as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever!"